New Eruption Likely This Weekend

Grindavík volcanic eruption January 2024

A new volcanic eruption could happen this weekend, according to Ármann Höskuldsson, volcanologist with the University of Iceland. The most likely place for it would be Sundhnúkagígar, where eruptions took place in December, January and February, damaging the nearby town of Grindavík.

Last night, the Icelandic Meteorological Office reported some sixty earthquakes over a 24 hour span in the magma corridor that lies under the area. The area with the highest level of activity was to the east of Sýlingarfell, where the first signs of a magma intrusion are expected to come to light.

Eruptions in Eldvörp possible

In an interview with Mbl.is, Ármann said that there’s no reason to think that a new eruption won’t occur in the area in the coming days. “Except if it were to occur in Eldvörp,” Ármann said.

Eldvörp is a row of craters to the northwest of Grindavík, the town of 4,000 inhabitants that was evacuated during the series of seismic activity and eruptions since November. Ármann explained that nearby Svartsengi, home to a geothermal plant and popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon, is something of a trap for magma, which is why it’s become the centre of activity.

Were the magma to reach Eldvörp, the activity around Svartsengi will cool off, as Eldvörp provides an easier route for the magma to reach the surface, due to its location on the boundaries of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Ármann added that persistent seismic activity was the only way for the magma to break through to Eldvörp, with each volcanic eruption making it more likely.

Waning Volcanic Activity Hints at End of Reykjanes Eruption

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

Volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula is waning, suggesting the current eruption may conclude soon. A volcanologist anticipates more eruptions in the area, predicting a cyclical pattern of intense but brief activity, potentially altering if magma gathers in the Eldvörp craters.

More eruptions likely to follow

In an interview with a radio programme on the National Broadcaster this morning, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated that volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula was slowly decreasing; the eruption could end as soon as tomorrow or the day after.

The northern crater of the fissure continued to spew lava westward, while lava from the southern crater was flowing out onto the plain. Ármann noted that eruptions in the area could not become any larger while issuing from the fissure near Sundhnúkar. Future eruptions are expected to be powerful but short-lived.

According to Ármann, it is likely that the current pattern of eruptions in the area will continue: a short eruption would occur, it would end, magma would begin accumulating again, and another eruption would occur. In the event that magma would begin accumulating in Eldvörp — a series of craters approximately ten kilometres long, where lava flowed during the Reykjanes Fires between 1210 and 1240 — this pattern would, however, likely change; the eruptions would become larger and last longer.

The current eruption is the third volcanic eruption to occur on the Reykjanes peninsula since December 18. The two previous eruptions have been relatively short-lived.

No lava fountains visible

In an interview with Vísir this morning, Sigríður Magnea Óskarsdóttir, a natural hazard specialist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, stated that the MET Office had not observed any lava-fountain activity since between 8 and 9 this morning.

“That does not mean that the eruption is completely over; there could still be some bubbling inside the craters. Ideally, we would need to fly over the area to verify. The geological unrest has, however, completely calmed down, and there is little or no seismic activity. So, it is very likely that the situation will fully settle down shortly,” Sigríður observed.

Life-Threatening Conditions in Eldvörp Caves, Warning Issued

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Following gas measurements conducted yesterday, the Icelandic Met Office has issued a warning for caves near the Eldvörp crater row in the Reykjanes peninsula (west of the Blue Lagoon). The Met Office conducts such analyses every week after a series of earthquakes, which resulted in considerable land uplift near Mt. Þorbjörn by Grindavík, occurred in late January.

A warning issued by a natural hazard expert with the Met Office states that changes in gas concentration have been measured, and in light of this the Met Office warns against exploring caves in the area. Measurements within one cave, in particular, indicated a life-threatening concentration of carbon dioxide along with a lack of oxygen.

“There are many caves in the area, but the cave in question is near a parking lot popular among travellers seeking to visit the Eldvörp crater row,” the statement reads. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has been apprised of the situation.

In an interview with RÚV, Kristín Jónsdóttir, team leader with the natural disaster watch at the Met Office, stressed that the Met Office’s warning only applied to caves in the area: “Walking in the area should be safe. It’s a beautiful area and it’s fun to explore. But we’re warning travellers to refrain from exploring the caves.”

This article was updated at 2.33 pm.